Mid-Week Reading: Volvo, Benz Do New Models; Audi, Ford Do Interiors. Saab 96 Does Boston

[hr] [dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s time for a little mid-week reading, combing through the more interesting news and entertainment from the automowebopshere. This week, Ford and Audi take interior functionality in two different directions. Volvo and Mercedes Benz show some new product, both real and imagined.

And there’s a couple of nice Saab stories, too.

Let’s start with one of those Saab stories.

The more obsessive Saab nuts would be familiar with this old publicity shot from the launch of the Saab 99 back in the late 1960’s.

Saab 99 1969

Via the Saab Museum’s facebook page comes this story, reuniting the three ladies that first climbed into the back to show the generous accommodation on offer in the 99.

Non-Swedes will need Google Translate as it’s in Swedish.

Quick tip: they weren’t models from an agency called in for a photo shoot, but regular Saab employees. And they were happy to recreate the photo for the reunion. Well done, ladies. πŸ™‚

I like what Volvo are doing at the moment. They really are becoming a car that a Saab fan can get seriously interested in and not just because they’re Swedish.

Volvo has just shown their XC Coupe concept car, which will make its real life debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.

Websites are tipping that this is the basis for a new XC90, albeit with fewer doors and fewer seats. I’ll wait and see on that one. Volvo aren’t exactly Honda when it comes to concept cars mimicking reality.

But this is nice. And the video’s very Saaby. I wonder how much crossover there is between former Saab and current Volvo PR/Marketing staff and agencies πŸ™‚

Via Jalopnik…..

I like what Audi are proposing to do with their interior electronics.


I’m not (and never have been) a big fan of large touchscreens outside the driver’s field of vision. While I have a lot of admiration for Tesla’s tech in general, I can’t stand that giant black brick they’ve got for a control centre inside the car. What Audi have done here is use the electric display in the binnacle to display the more vital centre console information and for me, it looks fantastic.

Next, they just need some chunky knobs, buttons and sliders for the HVAC system and entertainment (a-la Saab 900) and we’ll really be rolling.

I like the temp display on the vents, too.


In contrast, Ford is introducing a new function whereby your car’s controls can order a Domino’s pizza for you.

The automaker has teamed up with the pizza maker on an app for its Sync AppLink system that will allow driver’s to order Domino’s through voice commands. Users will have to set up a Pizza Profile with pre-configured menus through their Domino’s mobile app, but it’s relatively straightforward and expected to be available later this year on more than 1 million Ford products that have Sync AppLink.

America – sometimes you really do ask for it, ya know?

Mercedes Benz might have the answer for all those people wondering what they’re going to do when the lease on their 9-3x comes up (I’m looking at you, Hugh πŸ™‚ ). The GLA45 AMG looks a fair bit smaller than the 9-3x (ok, a lot) but it’s got the jacked up exterior trim bits and with that new MB turbocharged 355hp engine, it’ll go like stink.

I’m not sold on the exterior, to be honest, but the interior looks pretty damn nice. Check out the shifter. That’s some nice attention to detail (and yes, it’s probably been seen before but it’s the first time I’ve really noticed it).

Like the Volvo mentioned above, it’ll make a debit at the NAIAS. Price, as yet unknown, but it’ll add a nice premium to your 9-3x changeover, I’m sure.

Given that we’re talking classics a bit at the moment, it’s timely that US insurer and collector experts, Hagerty, has just announced their 2014 Hot List – the cars released in the 2014 model year that Hagerty believe will become collectable classics in the future. Note: they only consider cars under US$100K base price.

The 2014 Hagerty Hot List (along with base price):

1. Jaguar F-Type R ($99,000) – The British marque makes a triumphant return to the sports car scene with the growling F-Type. Boasting a healthy V8 engine and rear drive platform, the F-Type will surely be a driving enthusiast choice soon enough.

2. BMW M5 Sedan ($92,900) – A performance-oriented sedan with an old school manual transmission is quickly becoming an extinct species. While more drivers shun the thought of using three pedals, we applaud BMW for keeping this option alive in this segment.

3. Chevrolet COPO Camaro ($90,000) – Chevrolet basically guarantees future collectability of the drag- strip ready COPO Camaro by limiting production to 69 units. It is only appropriate that the first production model will be sold at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona.

4. Maserati Ghibli S ($75,000) – The Ghibli returns for a third time, and this time as a four door. The twin turbochargers feeding the 410 horsepower 3.0 liter V6 ensures the Ghibli is more than just pretty curves.

5. Alfa Romeo 4C ($54,000) – A budget-friendly Italian sports car might sound like an oxymoron, but the 4C is saying all the right words. With a carbon fiber tub leading to a curb weight of just over 2,100 lbs., this sporty two-seater isn’t pulling any punches as it aims at the U.S. market.

6. Chevrolet Corvette ($51,000) – The Corvette is the most popularly collected vehicle in the U.S. so GM had no choice but to make the new C7 great. It is a nice mix of Corvette heritage with real world performance figures and technology goodies. Dollar for dollar this is the best performance buy on the market.

7. Nissan 370Z NISMO ($43,000) – The Nissan Z car has amassed a following and the 370Z NISMO is the latest and greatest in this lineage. With Japanese cars now representing a standalone class of collectables in a way that we have not seen in the past, 350 and 370Zs will not be ignored by collectors in years to come.

8. Dodge Challenger Shaker ($36,995) – While the styling of the new Challenger has always harkened back to the glory days of muscle cars, nothing says horsepower wars like a bulging hood scoop. Dodge went back to the roots and added the iconic shaker hood to atop of a healthy HEMI engine and R/T options package. We will take ours in Plum Crazy Pearl.

9. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon X ($35,095) – Vintage SUV’s are the fastest growing segment and Jeep leads that pack. While more comfortable than its bare bones workhorse ancestor, the Rubicon X is highly capable for not a lot of money. Many of these now compete at events, which means they will one day command respect at vintage off-road demonstrations.

10. Ford Fiesta ST ($21,400) – Following the enthusiasm surrounding the Focus ST, the little brother Fiesta ST has been pumping the same iron. Youthful buyers attracted to compact cars don’t always want to sacrifice performance. The Fiesta looks, sounds and acts the part of a modern day enthusiast’s car.

I can see numbers 1 to 8 being possibilities.

As much as I like the idea of the Fiesta ST (and I’m sure the Jeep’s great), I think they should have stopped at 8. Trying to go to 10 for sake of round numbers just gets you in trouble sometimes.

And a Saab story to finish off with, via Autoweek.com

When I first read the headline – Tackling Boston in a Saab 96 – I really hoped that this would show the Saab 96 conquering the arctic windex, or whatever it’s called that’s causing the snowy conditions in the US right now.

Sadly, it seems to have been written pre-vortex so the photos don’t show cars neck-deep in the white stuff while the Saab happily trundles by.

This is a wonderful piece, though. It’s the story of a guy in Boston who’s recently bought a 1973 Saab 96 and uses it as much as possible, even leaving his Saab 9000 at home in deference to the old V4.

“I suppose you don’t get much road rage?”

“Well, you saw that person let me out of my driveway?” Charles had made a left onto Cambridge Ave, and a woman in a Jetta — perhaps a curiosity-seeker — had stopped to let us pull out. A rarity in Boston. In this car, nobody gets mad at you. Probably because they’re wondering what the hell it is in the first place.

That just about sums it up.

Recommended reading.


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  1. The base GLA should be around the same price as the 9-3x, with similar horsepower and size. Unfortunately, it looks like they are using the B-Class’ column shifter on the non-AMG specs.
    It’s yet another example of how cars are copying Saab’s playbook: 2 litre turbo, hatch, excellent aero (.29 Cd). It’s even got a legible instrument panel (unlike that awful Audi concept) and a button dash.
    The B-Class was on my shortlist last year, but it lost-out due to poor seats (less adjustment range than the C-Class), lack of a manual transmission, and the feeling that it was deliberately less pleasant than a C-Class inside.

    Cars #1, 2 and 4 on Hagerty’s list may well appreciate some day, but they they will sell used at 30% of list within five years. An acquaintance purchased a perfect V10 M5 last year for Camry money.
    Collectors should be looking at previous editions of Hagerty’s list: http://www.hagerty.com/corporate/Press. Some of those cars are close to bottoming-out.

  2. Swade, Ford deserves a laugh or two for how they are trying to use Sync to turn your car into your smartphone. But part of it is I think they are running scared because of the trends that show a lot of younger Americans are just not as interested in buying cars as the prior generation, especially if they live in cities with decent mass transit options. I was at a recent local IT conference and heard a presenter say that the Ford CEO has made the statement that Ford plans to remake itself in 10 years to being an “infotainment” company instead of a car company. What, you ask?!? What he meant was they plan to market their vehicles as just the latest extension of your mobile/social, connected infotainment experience. They hope that can snag the younger population into buying Fords.

    As for the Hagerty list, never heard of a COPO Camaro before….(why do I hear Barry Manilow singing in the background? πŸ™‚ )

    1. “As for the Hagerty list, never heard of a COPO Camaro before…”

      COPO (Central Office Production Order) cars were special order cars that Chevrolet started making back in the 1960s. They were not just Camaros. Chevelles, Novas, Corvettes and Impalas could also get the COPO treatment.

      For some folks, it meant stuffing the largest, most powerful engine Chevrolet had at the time, into a passenger car. Ostensibly for racing…but MANY made it to the street. πŸ™‚

      BUT…in reality…COPO cars originated as special order FLEET vehicles. such as Police cars & Taxis. However, it was used by some clever dealers to circumvent Chevrolet’s corporate ban on large engines in small cars.

      A little history here: http://www.camaros.org/copo.shtml

      And here: http://www.classicdreamcars.com/69COPO-GLACIER.html

      “It wasn’t too many years ago, that when we mentioned a “COPO Camaro” people thought you might be talking about a car owned by the Copo Cabana Club in Miami. But, thanks to magazine articles, The Internet, and TV Car Shows like “Dreamcar Garage”, “Rides”, “Car Crazy”, and “My Classic Car” all the true facts about these great cars have been brought to light. We are proud to offer for sale another great C.O.P.O. Camaro. The former seldom known fact is now a well known published factoid that Chevrolet had two similar, but distinctly different processes for ordering Optional Equipment from the factory. The first was “Regular Production Options”, commonly known as “RPO’s” and the second was a “Central Office Production Order, which was kept pretty much secret except to the really large ( a.k.a. ‘influential’) dealers ‘in the know’ and, of course, individuals within the G.M. Corporation. This way, the hideous public ( that’s you and me), were kept in the dark so, we couldn’t walk into our local Chevy Store and order a 427 COPO. While the COPO cars have become famous, due to handful of rare, super secret, high performance options, in reality the COPO System was actually intended for just mundane alterations. The most common use by dealers was for Special Fleet Paint Schemes and alterations for Municipal Vehicles…like Police Cars and Taxi Cabs. Some models were ordered to included Heavy Duty Suspensions, H.D. Springs and, even Cloth Interiors. It is unlikely in 1969, any Camaro’s became Taxi Cabs or Police Cars but, there is little doubt now, that this process was singled out to give the Camaro the hardware it needed…. to all but obliterate the competition. In this case, to build extremely High Performance Big Blocks.”

      Had a friend back in 1969 who had a COPO Camaro, and I want to tell you it was one scary fast car. His family owned the local pizza shop in town, and on many hot summer weekend nights, Vinny would make a run or two down Main Street…doing wheel stands! It was quite a show. What did the police think? They usually left us alone to play. Ah…the good old days. πŸ™‚

  3. As this is my first post of 2014, let me begin by wishing everyone a very happy and peaceful New Year!

    Now to the post; I know what you mean about Volvo Swade; I too like what they are doing at the moment and am seriously considering one for my return to the larger, more user friendly Swedish market, in fact, I have a test drive arranged and will let you know how I get on.

    Really like to video too. As you said; quite Saaby in a way.

    Cuore Sportivo!

  4. Thanks for the heads-up on the 99 publicity shot article. I have those brochures and always thought the one on the left (Eva) was the hottest model they ever used. Now I find out she wasn’t a model but worked at Saab to the bitter end. And, she still looks good. Remarkable reunion.

  5. The Volvo You concept looked great and this new take on it is no exception. I love the way the design language harks back to the PV Volvos of the 1940s and the later 140/240s. All Volvo need to do is stop trying to make cars that look like Hondas and all will be well. Looks like they might have got the message now.

  6. Speech bubbles for the 99 advert:

    Girl on right: Why do you have to rustle the bag so much?

    Girl on left: I didn’t.

    Girl in middle: It’s not the bag, it’s the headlining starting to come undone already. Just shut up and smile.

    1. Oh for the era when beehive haircuts could help in holding up the headlining….

      (noted that they don’t have beehives, but couldn’t resist πŸ™‚ )

  7. The Volvo XC Coupe concept looks like a natural progression for the C30. They could offer it in up to 6 flavors: base C30, C30 R, C30 Polestar, base XC30, XC30 R, and XC30 Polestar.

  8. The execution of that Audi dash doesn’t look that well considered to me, which is a bit of a surprise. There’s a lot of work to be done in the area of integrated systems in cars (which I’m excited about), but that just looks a mess of information overload. Not good!